THE LARAMIE PROJECT: A SADLY STILL RELEVANT CONVERSATION
By: Danny Blanda
Not my town. That’s all you can hope to say. Not here; not amongst my friends, my family. Every fiber of your body urges these thoughts. Don’t bring this pain, this suffering, this publicity, this Hate to my town. Unfortunately, we still have to have the conversation of Hate: Hate toward gender, races, religion, sexuality and such. So, we can turn and thank The University of Mississippi for its production of The Laramie Project and its desire to abolish such cancerous Hate.
To begin with, it’s hard to avoid the controversy that surrounded this particular production. Ole Miss, as it has been christened, ran into a sad scenario on home turf with members of its heralded SEC Football Program. Built on “Southern Tradition” and pride for its athletics, Ole Miss reminded members of the theatre community and nation at large, that there is a reason the state of Mississippi has failed to change its flag away from the historically Hateful “Stars and Bars.” To summarize the occurred events, several Hateful and foul remarks were muttered toward actors on stage during their initial run of the show. This microcosm and its painful irony only reminded our nation that discriminatory behavior is still far too alive.
With all that animosity surrounding the show, KCACTF opened its doors with welcoming arms to a work of art that deserved a receptive and supporting audience. The production began with an accompaniment of “homey” music and a bare stage. Much like the Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, this piece of theatre relied on simplicity to portray the horrific events that befell the town of Laramie, Wyoming and the accidental martyr Matthew Sheppard. To foil Wilder’s Our Town, The Laramie Project could have been entitled Not Our Town. An ensemble of young actors carried this weighted show, as they danced and mingled between new and reoccurring characters. Even with an understudy having to answer to the “call of arms,” this play surpassed succeeding. What was important was the message and that was impossible to miss.
Director, Rory Ledbetter’s blocking allowed the audience’s eye to follow easily to where it needed to go. In other words, not a moment was missed. My main critique to this show was that due to the multiple roles required, characters sometimes became caricatures as opposed to fully fleshed individuals. This was not a surprise and was easily overlooked due to the powerful textual monologues that recounted factual stories for those directly impacted by the tragedy of Laramie.
What The Laramie Project does so effectively, is that it gives the audience the full story and allows us to develop our own opinions on the issue. Not only are we then forced to think, but to feel for each of these individual souls (whether we agree with their points of view or not). Like Laramie, Ole Miss may have held an act of Hate, but both had something beautiful emerge from them as well. Hopefully one day we can look at The Laramie Project as a dated, historical piece, but until then Matthew Sheppard needs his story told.